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Succession of Horrell

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

November 6, 2019

SUCCESSION OF EDWARD A. HORRELL, SR.

          APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 1993-11275 C\W 1993-11701, DIVISION "G-11" Honorable Robin M. Giarrusso, Judge

          Maria I. O'Byrne Stephenson STEPHENSON, CHAVARRI & DAWSON, L.L.C. COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE

          Walter J. Horrell COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT

          Court composed of Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins

          SANDRA CABRINA JENKINS, JUDGE

         This appeal arises from a 1993 succession proceeding in which appellant Walter J. Horrell, Sr. ("Appellant"), in proper person, appeals the trial court's December 7, 2018 judgment homologating the final tableau of distribution in the succession of Appellant's father, Edward A. Horrell, Sr. ("Edward Horrell"). For the reasons that follow, we dismiss the appeal without prejudice, and remand for further proceedings.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This appeal stems from protracted succession litigation spanning 26 years and multiple appeals.[1] The pertinent facts are recounted in one of this Court's later opinions in the case, Succession of Edward A. Horrell, Sr., 11-1574 (La.App. 4 Cir. 4/11/12), 102 So.3d 139.[2]

Edward A. Horrell, Sr. ("Mr. Horrell"), died in 1993. Since his death, his eldest son, the appellant, has been fighting over his father's estate. Just prior to Mr. Horrell's death, appellant presented his father with a statutory will that appellant and his attorney daughter prepared. Mr. Horrell signed the will, with his attorney granddaughter and appellant's wife acting as witnesses. The will was deemed invalid by this Court because of Mr. Horrell's lack of mental capacity at the time he signed it. See Succession of Horrell, 95-1598, 95-1599 (La.App. 4 Cir. 9/11/96), 680 So.2d 725.
Simultaneously with the signing of the will, appellant presented his dying father with an act of donation, which would operate to donate a plot of land in Covington to the appellant. The property was Mr. Horrell's separate property.
Appellant's mother and his four siblings (referred to hereinafter collectively as "the Horrells") learned of the donation prior to Mr. Horrell's death and presented him with a revocation and a power-of-attorney in favor of his wife. Appellant subsequently presented his father with a document revoking Mrs. Horrell's power-of-attorney, and an incomplete petition to dismiss any suit Mrs. Horrell may file to revoke the donation.
Two days before Mr. Horrell died, his wife filed a petition in St. Tammany Parish to revoke the donation of the Covington property. She thereafter amended the petition to substitute Mr. Horrell's other four children as petitioners. Appellant answered the suit with an exception of no right of action. The trial court denied the exception. It ultimately granted a summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs (appellant's siblings) based on res judicata. Appellant appealed that judgment.
On rehearing, the First Circuit looked to the ruling of this Court finding that Mr. Horrell lacked the mental capacity to execute the will. The court reasoned that Mr. Horrell's mental capacity to execute the contested will was already decided in Succession of Horrell, supra; therefore, the issue of his mental capacity to sign the donation was res judicata. See Horrell v. Horrell, 99-1093 (La.App. 1 Cir. 8/15/01), (on rehearing ), 808 So.2d 363.
After this Court declared the will invalid, appellant sought to be named administrator of his father's estate. The trial court refused and an appeal followed. This Court found that appellant's involvement in having his father execute a will when he lacked the mental capacity to do so, demonstrated bad moral character on the part of appellant, thereby disqualifying him to serve as ...

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